Navy’s Minesweeping Unmanned Vessel on Schedule

By Yasmin Tadjdeh
A new Navy program to sweep away mines using an unmanned surface vessel recently completed several milestones, an industry executive said.

The unmanned Influence Sweep System program is intended to develop a technology that can detect acoustic and magnetic mines and be deployed from the littoral combat ship. Textron Systems won the $33.8 million contract in September and completed its preliminary design review this spring. No significant issues were discovered, according to Textron.

“It’s a good check mark to say that we are making the right progress on the program,” said Bill Leonard, director for unmanned surface systems at Textron.

During the competition for the program, Textron offered its fourth generation common unmanned surface vehicle.

The surface vessel is a modular platform that can be integrated with a number of payloads. Possible mission sets include mine warfare, anti-submarine warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and communication relay.

Textron Systems Unmanned Systems teamed up with its marine and land systems division to create the vessel, Leonard said.

“We paired with them and their naval architects to optimize the boat and the vehicle to go with our command-and-control system and really make a new offering,” he said. “We’ve made it where it can be deployed from ports, from harbors.”

Textron has also improved the propulsion system and expanded the payload capacity.

It can be deployed and retrieved from both variants of the littoral combat ship, Leonard said, and it is able to trick mines into detonating while remaining at a safe distance so it is not damaged.

“We put a magnet and acoustic generators in the water and it influences the mines,” Leonard said. “Basically it tricks the mine into thinking it’s a larger ship, and so it will have the mine blow up and … clear that area.”

The Navy contract is for the engineering, development and manufacturing of the unmanned vehicle with the option for six low-rate initial production systems, Leonard said. Textron will have to design, build and test it within 24 months before handing it off to the Navy for its own operational evaluations.

So far, the company has completed two milestones on schedule, the system requirements review and the preliminary design review.

“It is an aggressive program, but the real advantage is … we’ve been doing this a long time and when we put in the proposal we were already fairly well along with the design and meeting the Navy’s requirement.”

The next milestones include the critical design reviews.

“We’ll have one just for software, one just for the hull and structure … and then we have a culmination of everything,” he said. They are scheduled to be completed within the next five months.

Topics: Robotics

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